Is your dog obsessed with chasing balls and toys? It’s tempting to try and wear out your dog by mindlessly throwing the ball over and over again. However, often this only increases your dog’s arousal and risk of injury. By being thoughtful and controlled about retrieve games, you will not only provide safe, physical exercise but mental exercise as well!
Does your dog spend most of your walks sniffing the ground? Well, there’s a good reason for that! Unlike humans who rely on sight for environmental cues, dogs rely on scent. Sniffing is how they learn about their environment. Sniffing also has a calming effect on dogs. For these reasons, sniffing is a primary reinforcer, or something that is inherently reinforcing. So, why not harness a dog’s need to sniff by putting it on cue?
As trainers, we need to be able to depend on our dogs’ ability to respond to the correct verbal cue and not to other stimuli. Verbal cue discrimination training is an important skill; it ensures that your dog responds only to the correct verbal cue and not to other words. It is particularly useful in dog sports, such as canine freestyle, where many verbal cues are given and the dog must differentiate between them.
Shaping, teaching a new behavior by breaking it down in small increments, is an essential tool for teaching complex (and often useful) behaviors. In this video, KPA CTP Megan Ramirez uses shaping to teach her dog Rim Shot to flip a light switch—in just a three-minute training session!
Have you ever wanted to reward your dog for a job well done, but didn’t have food treats with you? Consider playing with your dog to reinforce good behavior! Using play as a reinforcer adds variety to your training routine and helps strengthen your relationship. The key is to find a toy or interactive game (tug, retrieve, chase) that your dog enjoys.
When training at a distance, there are many different objects that can be used to help your dog to stay in place, such as a mat or raised platform. These training aids give your dog a definitive place to be. However, sometimes you may find the need to train your dog from a distance without the use of a platform or mat to anchor him. This was the case for Ken Ramirez when working with his dog Marlin on The Ranch.
What if your dog could bring you his/her bowl—or even a beer? Training a dog to retrieve everyday items is not only helpful, but it is also a great way to keep your dog active mentally and physically.
When you think of training new behaviors, you think of training one behavior at a time. For example, in one training session you may teach your dog to jump on a platform and in another you may teach your dog to jump off. However, did you know that you can train these opposite behaviors rapidly if you train them together?
Looking for a fun activity to do with your dog this summer? Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) can provide an awesome outdoor adventure for both you and your pup. In this video, KPA faculty member Terrie Hayward demonstrates the steps to train your dog to paddle board with you.
Understanding reinforcement is the key to understanding how dogs learn. Reinforcement can be categorized as either primary or secondary. A primary reinforcer is a reinforcer that an animal needs to survive, such as food, water, or shelter. When you give your dog a treat for sitting on cue, you are using a primary reinforcer. However, when reinforced regularly, the “sit” behavior itself can become a secondary reinforcer.
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